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May 27, 2021

Rescuing the music of Florence Price, a pioneer Black American female composer

Dr. Ricardo Averbach, Director of Orchestral Studies at Miami University, has produced a mobile-phone version of “Adoration,” a string orchestra by the African American composer Florence Price. 

The production was a collaboration with Miami alumnus Srinivas Krishnan, Artistic Director of LEAP Boundary Breakers Choir, and Dr. Derrick Harkins, National Director of Interfaith Outreach for the Democratic National Committee. 

Recording and releasing a video of the performance during a global pandemic proved no easy feat. Members of the Miami University Orchestra used phones to record their individual parts, which then were carefully assembled together. The vocals parts were written by Dr. Harkins and most of the video’s footage involved children from the LEAP Boundary Breakers Choir, located in Chennai, India. The children recorded their parts in their homes. The video editor faced internet issues and often used his cellphone as a hotspot to upload the individual videos. Although the production process took more than three months to complete, the resulting cross cultural video performance of Price’s “Adoration” “breaks boundaries of racism and segregation, to become a symbol of inspiration in the memories of children and college students.” 

Price, an African American composer, graduated with honors from the New England Conservatory in 1887. Her Wanamaker award-winning Symphony in E Minor was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1932, and her song “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord” was performed by singer Marion Anderson in 1939 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Despite these accomplishments, Price was largely forgotten after her death in 1953.

Averbach plans to perform Price’s piano concerto live when audiences in the US are able to safely gather again. The video “Adoration” will be released and housed at the Miami University Symphony Orchestra YouTube channel and LEAP in India’s Facebook page.

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